Batherson’s All-Star dream derailed by ‘dirty,’ ‘dangerous’ elbow by goalie

Watch as Sam Cosentino joins David Amber to break down Aaron Dell's history of hitting players throughout his career, and why he should be suspended for his most recent hit on Drake Batherson that resulted in a long-term injury.

He plays like a man, but Drake Batherson wore the face of a child when he learned he would be representing the Ottawa Senators at his first NHL All-Star Game.

This was two weeks ago. Before a lovely story got derailed by a senseless act.

“It was pretty cool to hear that I’ll be going to the game,” Batherson said when he was named an All-Star. Batherson was instantly on the phone to the Batherson clan in Cape Breton.

“My family are super happy for me and I can’t thank the coaching staff and the players here enough for putting me in that position to be able to go to a game like that,” Batherson said, visibly bursting with joy.

Batherson, 23, admitted that his father, Norm, a former pro player himself, was tickled to be accompanying his son to the All-Star festivities in Las Vegas on the Feb. 5 weekend.

Except that now the Bathersons have been grounded, denied a glorious family moment and fitting reward for Batherson’s spectacular season in Ottawa because the winger is tending to a high-ankle sprain suffered needlessly in the first period of a game against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night.

As he raced in pursuit of the puck-carrying defenceman Mattias Samuelsson around the Sabres net, Batherson was blindsided by a flying elbow from Buffalo goaltender Aaron Dell, sending Batherson crashing – twisting – into the boards.

Batherson tried to get back on his feet, but it was painfully obvious he couldn’t put any weight on his left leg and had to be helped off the ice. A high-ankle sprain is a long-term, often unpredictable injury and Drake’s dreamy All-Star weekend went out the window as quickly as Dell’s elbow launched into Batherson.

“Quite frankly, it was just a bulls— play,” said Senators captain Brady Tkachuk, who had words with Dell the moment it happened. “What happened was unnecessary and dirty. You just feel for (Drake). He’s put in so much work to get to where he’s at. It definitely sucks.”

The Senators’ leading scorer and best player to this point in the season, Batherson scored his 13th goal and 34th point of the season against Buffalo, in just his 31st game. Who knows when he gets the chance to play another.

The Senators were suitably outraged by the play. Winger Austin Watson delivered a couple of minor hits on Dell later in the game, although no one really went after him. Must be nice to live in that sheltered crease, as the one player in the game others are not supposed to hit.

Goalies have a kind of diplomatic immunity. That also means they are supposed to behave diplomatically.

“Any other player in the game does that, you know, you have to go out and face the music,” said Senators head coach D.J. Smith. “It’s unfortunate the young kid won’t be able to go to the All-Star Game. It’s ridiculous.”

Dell, who has a history of delivering cheap shots to unsuspecting players, didn’t really face any retribution until his hearing with the NHL on Wednesday.

Dell, 32, is the same goalie who took an interference penalty a couple of weeks ago against Nashville’s Eeli Tolvananen, who wasn’t expecting to get hit along the boards and far from the goalie crease.

Dell is the same goalie who took a cheap shot on Vegas winger Mark Stone in September 2019, a play eerily similar to the Batherson injury. Stone was simply skating by the goaltender, completely unsuspecting of the body check that knocked him flying. Stone was furious, but at least he was away from the boards and not hurt on the play.

Batherson will be done for weeks, if not months.

Dell also swung his stick at Calgary Sam’s Bennett for daring to skate in the goaltender’s vicinity.

“I see replays of him at other times, running out and hitting players,” Smith said. “It’s a pattern. It’s a bad play by the goalie and he’s done it before.”

The post-game response from Dell was predictable and rang empty in Ottawa.

“I was just trying to buy some time for my defenceman and step into (Batherson’s) lane,” Dell said. “I hope he’s all right. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”

Wrong. A veteran goaltender knows how to delay a player just by a small move in his direction. But to knock a guy off stride, going full speed that close to the boards? Reckless. Needless. Senseless. Idiotic. Pick your description, which might be preceded by an expletive adjective.

Even Matt Murray, a card-carrying member of the goalie fraternity, couldn’t defend Dell.

“I don’t like calling out other goalies, but (a player) is not expecting to get hit by a goalie,” Murray said, following his 32-save shutout in what should have been a joyful 5-0 win by the Senators at home.

“Just like when a goalie comes out to play the puck, you can’t hit him,” Murray added. “I just thought it was a dangerous play that turned out to be a really unfortunate result.”

You can’t have it both ways. Live in a protective bubble but emerge from the bubble to unleash your wrath on players who aren’t expecting it.

Sadly, a suspension to Dell really does nothing for the Senators or Batherson. At best, it sends as message to other goaltenders not to do anything stupid like this.

The thing is, Dell seems to be one of the rare goalies in the game to pull this kind of crap.

It’s a shame he isn’t forced to sit out every single week that Drake Batherson, Ottawa’s All-Star winger, has to miss while rehabbing one of hockey’s worst injuries, as his family feels his pain.

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